Rob Sagar has seen tires that are 20 years old on some trailers.
Although the tires may not have been used much, Sagar suggests that maintaining tires and changing them out regularly will help prevent blowouts. “The most important thing to do is to check the air pressure,” says Sagar, commercial sales representative, Graham Tire.
Typically, trailers are only used a few months out of the year, which means a lot can happen from the last time the tires were used. Sagar says changes in temperature can cause changes in the air pressure in tires. Underinflated tires that travel down the road are more susceptible to failure.
Air pressure in all tires should be checked before using a trailer that has been sitting for an extended period of time. If you use a trailer frequently, the tires’ air pressure should be checked at least weekly. Consult your owner’s manual for proper inflation pressures.
Checking for worn tires
A tire is a device to hold air, and that air is what holds the trailer – not the tire. Tires need maintenance to keep them in good working condition.
Flatbed tires generally don’t wear out completely before they need to be replaced, says Gary Van Blaricom, president of Eastern Iowa Tire. Replace tires when there is injury that is not repairable or because of a combination of tire age and weather cracking.
Weather cracking comes with age and exposure to sunlight. When a tire sits in the elements, the sun hits the rubber and absorbs the UV rays. “The sun takes all of the nutrients from the tire; thus, weather cracking appears,” says Sagar.
Michael Burroughes, director of marketing with Michelin North America agricultural tires, says always do a walk-around inspection of tires before use. “Part of the maintenance is a pretrip inspection, where you check for weather cracking and fatigue,” he says. “Verify that the tires are in good working condition before your trip.”
According to the Department of Transportation, a tire is worn out when it reaches 2 32nds of tread depth. However, Van Blaricom says in a dealer’s mind, the tire is worn when it reaches 4 32nds. “When you go beyond 4/32nds, the tire doesn’t have as much protection from gravel, which can penetrate the tire more easily,” he explains.
Quantify how frequently you use your trailers and determine if you use them mostly for long or short hauls. “Tires used in long-haul applications will wear longer than short hauls,” says Van Blaricom. “The reason is because tires scrub more from starting, stopping, and turning.”
Choosing the right new tire
To determine what size tires you need, add the weight of the trailer plus the weight of the item being carried, then divide by the number of tires on the trailer. This is the load-carrying capacity, or the load range. It is very important to have a heavy enough tire to carry the load.